Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Design Studies Assignment 4

Well here's my first attempt at an essay in about 8 years I think. Scary to even think that.So I can only hope that I've done a half decent job.
This essay was part of our design studies module and so far this is the only assignment that I can really see the point in. Can't say I've been all that enthused by the other ones.
This essay relates to a previous assignment where I had to come up with a product that would help store and keep safe personal information. My essay focuses mainly on I.d fraud, i.d cards and biometric systems. Doing the research for this essay has been quite an eye opener and to be honest I'll never really look at i.d in the same way again.

Karen Smith
Design Studies Assignment 4

The journal I chose to look at more in depth for this assignment is Jain A K, Pankanti, S (Sep 2008) Beyond Fingerprinting, Scientific American, Business Source Premier
This journal examines biometric systems such as fingerprint, face, voice and iris scanning and how these systems are used in combating identity theft. It also looks at how efficient biometric systems are stating that they are far more difficult to abuse than more traditional methods such as using passwords and ID cards.
According to the authors biometrics is not a new phenomenon. In fact it has been around since 1879 when a French police inspector called Alphonse Bertillon discovered that taking body measurements, such as arm and foot lengths, of inmates were helpful when identifying repeat offenders. In 1896 it was also discovered that every fingerprint is unique to the person which prompted Scotland Yard to start collecting fingerprints from every crime scene.
Although this journal is very much in favour of biometric systems it does however touch on the fact that they are actually not 100% accurate and points out that ‘Experts generally agree that neither the false accept rate nor the false reject rate of a biometric authentication system should exceed 0.1 percent’ Jain A K, Pankanti, S (Sep 2008). However it was discovered during an evaluation from 2003-2006 by the National Institute of Standards Technology that ‘error rates for systems based on the fingerprint, face, iris and voice - another commonly used biometric trait - all exceeded the 0.1 percent level’ Jain A K, Pankanti, S (Sep 2008).
People in general have many concerns about biometric systems and I am inclined to agree these concerns do seem to be justified.
This journal does talk about how these systems are more secure method of protection than ID cards and passwords but it also states that there is no iron clad solution as yet to making ID theft a thing of the past. However the authors do think that it’s only a matter of time before a system is developed that will not only be secure but will regulate itself thus eliminating the concern over who actually has access to these files.
My impression of biometric systems is mixed. On one hand they seem a good thing and on the other not so good. I find it quite scary that ID theft is becoming more and more common which leaves society with the constant need to be constantly developing new methods to try and tackle this major problem. Anyone can be affected and now it can and does happen almost anywhere.
It’s also scary that no matter what new technology has been developed to combat this problem there always seems to be some clever person somewhere who is able to hack into and abuse this information for their own end and profit. It kind of makes you wonder whether or not the battle of ID theft will eventually be won or even can be won. This also leads to the question will identity no longer truly exist?

The book I chose to look at more in depth was David Lyon’s ‘Identifying Citizens, ID cards and Surveillance.’
This book examines how today’s society is constantly striving to establish a national id system and also the current status of identity systems and looks in great detail at surveillance systems - CCTV, biometrics, intelligent transportation systems, smart cards, on-line profiling and examines what is the potential future for biometrics in this day and age. It covers various angles such as historical, technical, political and sociological.
Lyons believes identification is the first step towards surveillance and points out ‘New ID card systems are a species of surveillance but they also share a key characteristic of much contemporary surveillance in that they facilitate forms of social sorting. This is a large-scale and far-reaching trend, enabled in fine-grain form by the use of searchable databases and associated techniques such as data mining, characterized by the classifying and profiling of groups in order to provide different levels of treatment, conditions or services to groups that have thus been distinguished from one another.’ Lyon D (2009) p41
In other words the intention of using ID cards is not only to prevent identity fraud but also to provide us with a better, more personalised service in our daily lives such as personal tastes, places we like to shop, better deals etc.
The rise of e-government, the 9/11 atrocities and global mobility has caused an upsurge in concerns over identity theft thus creating a need for a more secure form of ID system. However Lyons does conclude that the current system of ID needs a total re-think and a total re-think which will become a long term process.
I found this book really interesting especially the part about ID cards not only serving as purely for ID purposes but also this whole notion about companies being able to tap into your personal information i.e. spending habits in order to offer you better deals. Lyons seems very for ID surveillance and I do agree that the world we live in with all its current problems begs some form of identification for safety reasons alone. However I also admit to finding this a bit scary and in my comments earlier about the journal ‘Beyond Fingerprinting’ I felt it necessary to ask whatever happened to anonymity? Surely it should be a person’s right whether they would want to be part of this or not? Surely individual choice should remain an important part of any society or is this becoming unattainable in the current and developing situation?
This journal and book were very similar in the fact that all the authors were very much in favour for some kind of identity biometric system. Both also agree that there are inconsistencies with these systems and as yet they are not 100% reliable.
The other journals I previously referenced were also all in favour of biometric systems. In fact during my research I only came across one journal,(Wagner, P (Apr-June 99) Technology for anonymity: names by other nyms, Information society, Taylor and Francis), that focused more on the negatives of biometrics. The author of this journal was in favour of anonymity and pointed out how the systems that are currently in place to protect it are not entirely reliable. Most of them however did admit that people have major concerns with the biometric and before they can really be fully integrated into society there has to be a lot more research done into this area.
Another of the journals I looked at (Cohn, L (jul 2009) What you need to know about identity theft, Kiplinger’s personal finance, business source premier) looked at how to prevent identity theft in other ways such as always shredding personal documents with a cross shredder. This journal also gave statistical information on how much ID theft costs the consumer each year.
I always knew that ID fraud was a major and ever growing problem. However doing this research has opened my eyes even more to how wide scale and enormous ID theft really is. It’s also brought to light the pros and cons of biometric systems and raises a lot of questions which I’m sure the majority of people would have. I suspect they would ask if biometric systems can ever be 100% secure and reliable? Or will biometrics inadvertently open the door further for fraudsters to assume other people identities more readily?
It also makes you wonder what is wrong with society when we have to go to such lengths just to protect our identity?
Although we live in a technology obsessed society and technology is evolving at a rapid speed when it comes to ID fraud and biometric systems there needs to be more research done before it can be successfully used in everyday life.
Like David Lyon the author of the book ‘Identifying Citizens’ mentioned this will be a long term process. I also have concerns over how much information these identity systems should hold for example holding information on spending habits and personal tastes seems a bit extreme to me.
The main problem seems to be as technology advances so does the skills of the hackers so it poses the question whether biometrics will ever really be completely safe from corruption?
From my reading I am inclined to accept that society is currently placed between a rock and a hard place with a need to ensure safety, protect personal finance and information against fraud, misuse, etc. plus the problem of ever more personal invasion which will almost certainly be resisted by many people.

Cohn, L (jul 2009), What you need to know about identity theft, Kiplinger’s personal finance, Business source premier Jain A K, Pankanti, S (Sep 2008)
Beyond Fingerprinting, Scientific American, Business Source PremierLyon D,(2009),
Identifying Citizens i.d cards as surveillance, Polity PressWagner, P (Apr-June 99) Technology for anonymity: Names by other nyms, Information society, Taylor and Francis

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